Working as team destroyed me.

“As knowledge becomes networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us, and isn’t the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it… Knowledge is becoming inextricable from – literally unthinkable without – the network that enables it.” 

 David Weinberger

I transitioned this fall to our district’s Instructional Leadership Team which consists of 6 teachers and our principal. Previously, I have thought of myself as collaborative…yet, I am not sure if I would have called myself a team player, or if in fact, I understood what “team player” really implied or entailed. To be honest (and honesty is one of the main reasons I write here) I am not sure if I fully believed a “team approach” was effective or necessary.

Collaborative, embedded and responsive work with teachers in a continuous and exquisitely personalized cycle of co-teaching, co-teaching and co-learning…is new. In the past, teachers were meant to figure it out…by ourselves. Alone.

The steep grind up the first 90 days has worn down aspects of me and to healthy extents, I have had to let go of my ego, my expertise, and my confidence. In its place I have had to trust our vision, our work and our inter-contentedness as team…it has scared the pants off me. I do intentionally seek change for its vital role in maintaining flexibility and responsiveness to life, but (you heard it coming) I did not fully anticipate the feeling of loss in giving up my egocentric persona at work. Many “me treads” had to be worn off; burly treads are only useful in very specific terrains!

I don’t want to be a me-less, ego-less drone in a state of group think. No. It is a matter of willingly and knowingly standing up on the proverbial table, crossing my arms as I turn around and fall backwards into team. Completely.

I trust. Completely. I sink in. Completely. I co-create our vision. Completely.

Working as team has destroyed:

1. My “what’s in it for me” mindset:  As team, I see my choices beyond simply what’s in it for me. I look up to see how my choices impact and play out for others. I look beyond the small gains and out, towards a more long-term stability of “we.”

2. Working the veneer: In a team, there is not much you can “hide”. You cannot polish up the surface and be good to go. To create a shine requires of me to be solid and consistent throughout.

3. The burn out fluctuations: Alone, I gauged my commitments and energies for myself, by myself. When I got tired or overwhelmed, oh well. In a team I see how my ability or inability to create a sustainable balance directly impacts others.

4. The cloudy mirror: Alone, it was easy to look in a cloudy mirror. Together, the mirror needs to be clear, I see myself mirrored in others. I see how the ripples of my moods, thoughts and feelings impact, very directly, the team.

5. A protective over confidence: Alone, I worked to maintain a stance of expert. Together as team, not one of us is expert. We together create a collective, inter-connected, and inter-dependent expertise. 

I still miss the sharpness of me, the brightness of 100% me…I am sinking into the depth, comfort and shared wisdom of team.

6 thoughts on “Working as team destroyed me.

    • Hi Shary, it is funny to reflect now that I used to think that I had very little control in the classroom. Now looking back I realize it wasn’t that I did not have control, it was just the what’s I did not have control over (ie schedule, when to eat). Makes me reflect (again) how everything is so about perspective.

      Thanks for the comment!

  1. Great post. You hit on something I cannot shake. I don’t play well with others and quite frankly, I am not sure I ever will. Nor do I think I want to.

    This doesn’t mean I am not willing to help others, I would give my shirt off my back to help others but working “collaboratively” drives me freekin bananas. I am guessing this is obvious to others as I rarely get invited to play with others on district initiatives, not that I mind because I just like doing my own thing, at my own pace on my own terms.

    The fact that you seem to have overcome the working with blinders on thing means there might be hope for me but like i said, I am not sure I want to.

    • Hi Keith. I think we all can change if we are willing and want to. I was at a place in my career where I both wanted and needed a new challenge. I felt competent at what I was doing but I did not feel I was extending myself enough. This new environment has stretched me in many ways and has met that personal objective. I know it has caused me to reflect on many aspects of both my practice and education in general. In a way this way I see it as a gift at this point in my career (closer to end that to the start). That said it has been challenging for me, as an “older” teacher and I recognize that I am set in my ways. I hope this in some way will help to keep my mindset “young.” 🙂
      I grew up when collaboration was not part of the culture and began teaching when people built and maintained kingdoms at all costs, so collaboration does not come as easily to me as I thought it would. I appreciate you differentiating collaborating vs offering support and we all have our roles to play.


  2. Wondering if you & Shary (who commented above) know each other personally. Carolyn, I’m working with Shary in a COETAIL course now. She’s in Bulgaria. I’m in Korea and I met you in Boston. It’s such a small world. This is the second coincidental bumping into people online in places you would not expect in a week for me.

    • Hi Robin!
      Ha, what a small world indeed 🙂 How nice to know we are all connected somehow 🙂 Hopefully we will get a chance to catch up and enjoy Italian food together again this summer!

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